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The following is an interesting reminder of the OLD DAYS written for PACE by Father W T Jolly. Parish Priest at Costessey. It makes one realise the changes that have taken place in Catholic life during the last 100 years

In 1870 Dr Husenbeth looked back on 50 years in charge of the Catholic Parish of Costessey where soon after his ordination, he arrived in 1820 to be chaplain to Lord Stafford at Costessey Park.

At the time Dr Husenbeth's arrival the Stafford - Jerninghams lived in the Old Hall which dated from 1564 and where, all through the penal times, Mass has been said in the secret attic chapel.

In 1809 a much larger chapel was built in the grounds of the Hall and here Dr. Husenbeth parishioners attended Mass until the present church of St. Walstan was opened on May 26th, 1841. From then on there were two Sunday Manes in the village: one in the Hall chapel where the Jerninghams occupied a kind of tribune connected with the house, and one at St. Walstans. This took place, as now, at 10.30 am. In the afternoon there were Vespers at 3 o' clock.

In 1870 the visit to the Hall of the Prince Of Wales (later Kind Edward) and with Princess Alexandra, which had taken place in 1866, was still a living memory in the village. 'The Hall' now meant, not the original Tudor House, but a vast mansion building in the Gothic manner adjacent to it between the years 1827 and 1832. This mansion however was never completed and even during the royal visit (which is said to have cost the family 10 a day) the huge dining room, main kitchen and immense conservatory remained unfinished and unusable.

Meanwhile Dr. Husenbeth was long established in the Presbytery which built adjoining the church and occupied in 1841. He recorded the cost of building the church and presbytery and furnishing both these buildings as 4417.7s 10d. His parishioners numbered by now about 400, of whom all but a few lived in Costessey itself. A dozen or so are given as inhabitants of Wymondham, Easton, Bawburgh and Felthorpe.

Costessey was, therefore, a predominately Catholic village whose people mostly found occupation at the Hall - working in the house, grounds, or stables: or in the laundry, brewery or brickworks. One servant's whole time was devoted to filling lamps with oil and keeping their glasses polished. The children, whether Catholic or not, attended the only village school, which was that founded and entirely supported by Lord Stafford. Parish records, most meticulously kept in Latin, preserve the names of the 135 communicants on Easter Sunday. 1870, and the number of communions on the half-dozen other great feasts of the year, on which alone, it was customary' a hundred years ago, to receive Holy Communion.
Baptisms, in an era of frequent infant mortality, usually took place the day following the baby's birth and some times on the day itself, Dr Husenbeth invariable wrote down his sermons and read them from the pulpit: they were re-read at regular five yearly intervals.

If one wanted to go to Norwich at this time, one walked or caught the occasional carrier's car. Religious anniversaries, therefore, were great events to be looked forward to: such as the annual pilgrimage to St. Walstan's Well at Bawburgh, the Blessed Sacrament procession in the Hall grounds or the First Communion breakfast provided by the Jerninghams.

Dr Husenbeth became a family thick-set figure as he regularly visited, on foot, the homes of his parishioners. On Sunday evenings he ate, as a rule, with the Jerningham family'.

He is described, conflictingly, as "to rigid, unbending and dogmatic" and 'always genial, cheerful and kind hearted. He disallowed any kind of modern devotions in his church as the "Forty Hours" or Retreats. Preached by members of Religious orders! Visits to his parishioners on Friday's were timed, they thought, to coincide with midday meal so as to ensure abstinence from meat, he would argue forcefully with a fellow priest against a spoonful of milk in tea on a fast-day. Things were not "left to the individual conscience" in 1870!

Impervious to cold, he bathed, during the time he lived at Rose Cottage before his Presbytery was built, every morning - winter and summer - in a pond behind the house

The Doctor's evening were devoted to an enormous correspondence, his "Life of St. Walstan" (in whose miracles he was a great believer) and the writing of a large number of learned books. In his will he left a library of valuable through not very readable books and, rather surprisingly, a parrot.

Did coming events cast shadows over the year 1870? The Sisters were to leave the school in 1874 though they returned, now fully qualified teachers, three years later. The last two Lords Stafford were rendered by mental instability, quite incapable of any kind of leadership in the village. When Dr Husenbeth was found dead in bed on the morning of October 31st, 1872 the Bishop had no priest to replace him.

St Walstan's church closed and remained so for the following 38 years. The church doors creaked open only for the occasional funeral, while the interior hung with cobwebs and a bird built its nest in the tabernacle. Once more the parishioners crossed the Costessey Park for services in the Hall chapel.

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Ernest G Gage
The publishers wishes to thank the Eastern Evening News for there permission to use the above photograph of the author taken by Harry Naylor.

Ernest Gage moved to Folgate Lane, Costessey in 1956. He retired from the drawing office of the GPO in 1975. In his retirement he was an accomplished wine maker - organ player of the year - water colour painter and photographer.

He then became interested in history and was known as the Local Historian. He began his research into the history of Costessey and published his first book on Costessey Hall in 1991. In 1992 he continued his research into the history of Old Costessey and his second book 'Costessey - A Look into The Past' was published in February 2002.

Sadly Ernest Gage, the author of 'Costessey Hall' and 'Costessey - A Look Into the Past' died in 2010. Ernest would be very pleased to know that his last book 'Costessey - A Look Into the Past' is being reprinted
© 2013 Brian E Gage

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